Van Johnson
Photo: DeKalb County Police Department
Photo: DeKalb County Police Department

Cops: Man shot juvenile he claimed stole his car at DeKalb gas station

Authorities arrested a Lithonia man accused of firing shots at a car, causing a crash that killed a juvenile near a DeKalb County gas station. 

Van Johnson, 46, of Lithonia, was arrested Tuesday, nearly a month after opening fire on the youngster at the Exxon gas station in the 5000 block of Covington Highway, according to DeKalb police and jail records.  

“The apparent motive in this case was that Mr. Johnson was illegally protecting his property from being taken,” DeKalb police Officer S.J. Salzer said in an emailed statement to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. 

Police said no further information would be released about the victim because he is a juvenile. 

According to a police report, Johnson pulled up to the gas station in his 2007 Chevrolet Silverado on Aug. 27 and began speaking to another person at a nearby pump. During the conversation, Johnson opened the hood of his truck to check the oil when the juvenile opened the driver-side door and got in, the report stated. Salzer said the two did not know each other.

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As the teenager drove away, Johnson allegedly fired multiple shots into the rear window of the truck, according to the report. When Johnson saw that the vehicle didn’t stop, police said he jumped in the bed of the truck. It eventually crashed into a tree at a nearby Public Storage, according to arrest warrants. 

Witnesses told authorities Johnson tossed a bag with the weapon, found to be a .40 caliber handgun, and shell casings in a nearby bush and fled the scene, according to the warrants. 

Johnson faces murder and other charges, including aggravated assault and possession of a weapon by a felon. He had been wanted in DeKalb County on a battery charge at the time of the shooting. 

He previously served four years and 10 months for a burglary conviction in Fulton County, according to the Georgia Department of Corrections. Johnson also served 18 months for previous cocaine possession and two weapons possession convictions in DeKalb County. 

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